Korea Traditional Games

Korea Traditional Games

Despite the booming of smartphone and online application games, the Korea traditional games thrive, and although it is uncommon to see people play these games in their daily life, ask a Korean teenager and he/she will be able to give you an explanation or even a demonstration on how to do it. Below are some of them:

Yutnori 윷놀이



Story Behind This Game

It is a stick-throwing board game, which is believed to have its roots in divination rituals practiced by farmers in the 5th century. Now it is considered as the most popular traditional game.

How to Play?

It is played with four bamboo sticks — round on one side and flat on the other. First, the sticks are thrown on the ground, and you move your game piece according to the number that comes up (The combination of flat and round sides in each throw determines the number of spaces one can move on a board marked with 29 spaces). All four sticks are thrown together, and your game piece must cross the finish line to win.

Find out more about this game:

Yeon Naligi (Kite flying) 연날리기

Story Behind This Game

In the past, it was customary to write one’s name, birthday and the phrase “Bad luck be gone, good luck stay” on a kite and let it fly away in the hope of ensuring fortune throughout the year. Kite-flying has long been popular with Koreans, especially during the Lunar New Year holiday. It dates back to the Silla Kingdom (57 B.C.-A.D 668).

How To Play?

Some paper is attached to a bamboo frame, and it is connected to a long string and flown into the sky. There’s no special rule on how to play this game; just have fun! In Korea, well-wishing symbols are written on the yeon and it’s sent up into the sky as far as the attached string will go, then the string is cut. Koreans used to make wishes for health and happiness for the New Year as a part of yeonnalligi.

Neoltwiggi 널뛰기

 They had done this since longgggg time ago…


..and still do this till today…

Story Behind This Game

This is Korean ‘seesaw’ game. First,  place a rolled-up straw mat under a long board called a “neol.” Traditionally, two girls played at a time by jumping at either end of the board.  This game originated from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) when women, especially young girls, were confined to their homes. Folklore says the game developed out of the women’s desire to catch a fleeting glimpse of men passing outside their homes’ walls. New Year’s Day used to be the only time of year that girls could see over the courtyard walls.

How to Play?

It looks very similar to a seesaw, but it requires perfect timing between the two persons to do it right. Neol is made with a sheaf of straw placed centrally under a thick, but slim and long wooden plank. A person gets on each end of the plank, and together the two people need to time their jumps to bounce each other high into the air.  They take turns aiming to leap the highest.

Tuho 투호



Story Behind This Game

It is a game of throwing arrows into a narrow-necked jar. It is a form of entertainment for aristocrats in royal court yards and noblemen’s residences.

How To Play?

This is probably the game with the easiest rule, as your aim is to throw a long stick to a narrow necked jar however it is not as easy as it sounds as the stick is quite long and the jar’s neck is very small. The winner is the one who can get the most stick in it.

Baduk 바둑


Old picture depicting Korean men playing ‘Baduk’


A ‘Baduk’ board

Story Behind This Game

The earliest written reference of the game is mentioned in Book XVII of the Analects of Confucius (c. 3rd century BC) and in two of the books of Mencius (c. 3rd century BC). Although Go may have reached Korea as early as the 5th century AD, more solid evidence stems from the 7th century AD. At least 2 television stations in Korea broadcast ‘Baduk’ game 24 hours include championships. It is a popular game for adult and elder Korean men.

How to Play?

Two persons are required to play this game. They alternately placing black and white stones on the vacant intersections of a line grid. The standard size of this grid is 19 × 19. The objective of the game is to control a larger part of the board than the opponent. To achieve this, players strive to place their stones in such a way that they cannot be captured, while mapping out territories that cannot be invaded by the opponent without being captured.

Go-Stop (고스톱)

Photo credit: www.classblogmeister.com

Story Behind This Game

This is a traditional Korean card game  with cards referred to as hwatu (화투) in Korean. Typically, there are two or three players. The general point of this game is to score points, usually three or seven, and then call a “Go” or a “Stop.” When a “Go” is called, the game continues, and the amount of points or money is first increased, and then doubled, tripled, quadrupled and so on. If a “Stop” is called, the game ends and the winner collects their winnings.

This is also probably the famous game you often see in Korean dramas, where famiy members sit down together making noises of card being slapped to the cloth. They often play bets when playing this game, the rule of thumb is to have fun, even though many times it can get pretty intense!!

How to Play

  1. Play begins with the dealer and continues counterclockwise. Time of play also determines how this game should be played (daytime/ nighttime).
  2. A turn begins with a player attempting to match one of the cards lying face-up on the table with a card of the same month in their hand. If there are two cards of the same month already on the table, the player may select one of them. If the player has no cards matching the cards on the table, the player discards a card to the table.
  3. The turn continues with the player flipping over the top card from the draw pile and looking for a card of the same month on the table. If the player locates a matching card on the table, the player collects both cards along with the cards matched in step 2. Otherwise, the drawn card is added to the table.
  4. If the card drawn from the top of the draw pile in step 3 matches the two cards matched in step 2, the three cards remain on the table. This is known as ppeok. The three cards remain until a player collects them using the fourth card of the same month.
  5. If a player draws a card which matches the card discarded in step 2, the player collects both cards as well as one junk card (pi) from each opponent’s stock pile. This is known as chok .
  6. If a player plays a card in step 2 for which two matching cards are already on the table, and then draws the fourth matching card from the draw pile in step 3, the player collects all four cards as well as one junk card (pi) from each opponent’s stock pile. This is known as ttadak.
  7. The object of the game is to create scoring combinations to accumulate points up to a score of either three (for three players) or seven (for two players), at which point a “Go” or a “Stop” must be called.

There are more rules of this game, which is impossible to write it all down here, I suggest you go to http://www.sloperama.com/gostop/scoring.html to find out how the scoring and rules work.

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